If you've spent any time on Facebook or YouTube this week, you've probably seen the video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” In less than a week since its release, it has gotten over 11 million hits, over 200,000 likes, 27,000 dislikes, 117,000 comments, and a slew of response videos (as of this writing). Clearly, this video has struck a chord with many people. Some people love the attack on the hypocrisy of religion; some seek to defend religion, while others want to throw both Jesus and religion out the window.
While I don't agree with everything in the video, I do appreciate the distinction the creator is trying to make between religion and Jesus. I don't agree that they are polar opposites, but there is certainly a difference between the two. It is possible to have religion but miss Jesus. It's also possible to follow Jesus and not accept religion.
Religion is the organization of people who have similar beliefs and practices regarding God. At its best, it is a community that strengthens one another and reflects the complexity of God. At its worst, it is a collection of customs and roadblocks that block access to the very One they are supposed to lead people toward. Religion is full of messed-up people who, despite the best of intentions, often botch things up. It's a frustrating reality.
But I don't look to religion for my salvation. Jesus Himself offers me that, and it is my relationship with Him that really matters.
So why even bother with religion? Because we are social creatures following a relational God, so there is great value in group worship. There are many facets of God that I have learned through the experiences of others, things I could not understand on my own. I have also found a family in my church that has seen me through my most difficult times.
I don't need a religion that is perfect because I have a God who is perfect. Plus, I fit right in with an imperfect religion.